Schools in Samoa have been closed for a further week as more than two thousand cases of the Influenza B flu have been recorded affecting mainly children.

The public notice was issued Thursday by the Director of Education following a Cabinet directive to close all schools in order to curb the rapid spread of the virus and also to assist with the medical personnel shortage in the hospitals.
The Director General of Health, Aiono Dr Alec Ekeroma voiced concern over the rapid increase in the number of children now affected by the influenza B flu virus spreading in the country.

The total number of cases recorded as of last week stands at 2441.

“Three weeks ago, it was noted that 150 children infected were recorded a day,” said Aiono.

He said they thought it was a “fluke” however, the same number was recorded the next day and they realised they had a problem on their hands.

“We noted the number of recorded cases had tripled including cases from other district hospitals,” Aiono told the media.

The recorded number of cases at the end of March was 519 and last week, the number went up to 1500 and most of them were admitted.

He said it takes at least 4 to 5 weeks for a person to be affected by any flu, but influenza B now spreading in the country is much more severe in children.

The total number of cases recorded 6 -12 March was 1275 but last week, the number has reached 2441 and the age group affected is between the ages of 1-12 years.

Aiono confirmed that the Ministry is facing a dilemma as the outbreak has put a strain on the available medical resources.

“We do not have enough staff to cope with the increasing numbers of cases, and the medical team working at the paediatric unit are overworked,” said Aiono.

He also confirmed that there are 70 admitted cases at the paediatric ward, but there are only 54 beds, so other children are being transferred to other hospital units and to district hospitals.

With the numbers expected to increase, there is a possibility of asking for medical personnel assistance from New Zealand and Australia.

Aino confirmed that due to the increasing number of children affected, they have requested Cabinet to extend the school holidays to another week so they could monitor the status of influenza B.

He said this will give medical staff a break and to cope with the number already attended to, but also a chance to reduce the spread of the virus.

“Hopefully this will reduce the number and assist the situation at the hospitals but also to avoid any serious problems,” said Aiono.

Asked if the hospital has enough medicine supplies to cater not just for the flu but measles which now threatens Samoa, Aiono said they have already ordered more supplies.

He also confirmed that there are enough supplies to cater for the worst.